Skipping to the conclusion, the VW Polo GT TSI is the new hot hatchback of India.
[Except for the badges, there's no drama on the bodywork to hint at the bomb under the bonnet]
Unlike family-minded two-boxes that sport a body kit or stickers and claim to be sporty or fun, the GT TSI doesn't have any drama on the body work to suggest its aggressive temperament. But a short test drive of this tech-laden compact car is all it takes to blow you away.
[Badges are placed at prominent places on the car such the grille and the C-Pillar]
What has this variant done to its segment?
The GT TSI is not just about performance. Features such as ESP (a first for a hatchback in the B segment), direct injection, turbocharging and a dual clutch seven speed automatic transmission are those you can't fit from an after-market store. These features cannot be experienced or enjoyed unless the manufacturer wishes to offer them. And we laud Volkswagen for bringing such equipment to India and hopefully starting a trend.
Is Volkswagen out of sync launching a petrol car at a time when diesel rules?
The TSI petrol variant is not a volume spinner of the lot. However the price difference between petrol and diesel is at its lowest point for the last two years today. As diesel prices are gradually increasing, the balance has shifted slightly back in favor of petrol cars. Another reason why consumers opt for diesel engines is that petrol engines are not fun to drive as they were a few years ago. The excise benefit awarded to small cars has made engines displace under 1.2-liters and almost every one of them is maxed out for the best fuel economy.
What is the Polo GT TSI powered by?
The GT TSI is powered by a 1.2-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged direct injected petrol engine. It produces a maximum power of 105PS @ 5,000 rpm and 170Nm of torque between 1,500-4,000 rpm. The ARAI fuel efficiency rating is 17.2kmpl.
[Special sill plate (left) and cloth-trimmed door arm rests (right) have been included on the GT TSI]
The 1.2-liter TSI unit replaces the 1.6-liter unit which VW India retrieved from the market last year due to low sales. To use that engine’s numbers as a reference, it delivers peak outputs of 103.5bhp @ 5,250rpm and 153Nm @ 3,750rpm. The 1.2-liter in comparison produces a higher power output at lower revs and a higher peak torque is available from 1,500-4,100 RPM. Higher power and torque are therefore easily accessible with less noise and fuel expenses.
[Foot on brake reminder (left) and ESP switch (right) are new to the Polo]
How does the GT TSI feel to drive?
The driving experience is unlike any offered today in the small car segment. At 1,700 rpm, the turbocharger kicks in and the car accelerates like an aircraft about to take off from a runway! You experience G-Forces that you normally don't associate to a hatchback of this size.
[Direct injection and dual clutch automatic transmission finally cascade into the B Segment with the launch of the Polo TSI]
The 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that gets shifting points reprogrammed to Indian driving conditions, can be left to function on its own or overridden to operate manually using to and fro gearshift movements of the gear selector.
Additionally, there's a Sport mode which let's the engine rev a bit higher in each gear and blips the throttle on downshifting, which it is eager to perform each time the driver brakes. To get the best fuel efficiency out of this engine, its recommended to leave the gearbox to go about its job autonomously.
The steering weighs up well and provides adequate feedback at high speeds. The suspension is firm and body roll is suitably contained. The 180/60 R15 tires and the braking systems are retained from the regular Polo variants.
What I like about the Polo GT TSI -
- The thrill of driving a turbocharged petrol engine and experiencing the sudden burst of acceleration when the turbo spools.
- The ease of driving an automatic car. If you aren't in the mood to put pedal to the metal, you slip the gearbox into "D" mode for a quiet experience.
- The build quality of a German car - the quality of the plastics, the fit and finish is class leading on the exterior and interior. Frequent touch points such as the steering wheel, hand brake and the shifter are trimmed in leather to feel special.
- The introduction of ESP, a life saving safety feature, into the B segment may prompt proactive car companies such as Hyundai to introduce it on their cars. The electronic nanny corrects the balance of the car the moment it senses instability. Crashing it with the ESP on is neigh impossible.
- The black interior bodes well with the spirited mechanical package.
What I don't like about the Polo GT TSI -
- For its segment, the GT TSI is a proper 'fast car'. At high speeds grippy tires and disc brakes on all four wheels could make a significant difference to the driving experience. Bigger brakes and tires would also drive up the price of the car, which is a primary reason for their omission.
- The GT TSI is a driver's car and complaining about the lack of rear knee room for a well built adult is absurd. However this is India and cars are occupied by more than just a driver and his mate. VW should improve the rear seat experience and boot volume when the Polo skips to the next generation so that all variants in the car's lineup benefit from added practicality.